Truth - Notable Views - Modern Age - Kant


Immanuel Kant endorses a definition of truth along the lines of the correspondence theory of truth. Kant writes in the Critique of Pure Reason: "The nominal definition of truth, namely that it is the agreement of cognition with its object, is here granted and presupposed". However, Kant denies that this correspondence definition of truth provides us with a test or criterion to establish which judgements are true. Kant states in his logic lectures:

:"(...) Truth, it is said, consists in the agreement of cognition with its object. In consequence of this mere nominal definition, my cognition, to count as true, is supposed to agree with its object. Now I can compare the object with my cognition, however, only by cognizing it. Hence my cognition is supposed to confirm itself, which is far short of being sufficient for truth. For since the object is outside me, the cognition in me, all I can ever pass judgement on is whether my cognition of the object agrees with my cognition of the object. The ancients called such a circle in explanation a diallelon. And actually the logicians were always reproached with this mistake by the sceptics, who observed that with this definition of truth it is just as when someone makes a statement before a court and in doing so appeals to a witness with whom no one is acquainted, but who wants to establish his credibility by maintaining that the one who called him as witness is an honest man. The accusation was grounded, too. Only the solution of the indicated problem is impossible without qualification and for every man. (...)"

This passage makes use of his distinction between nominal and real definitions. A nominal definition explains the meaning of a linguistic expression. A real definition describes the essence of certain objects and enable us to determine whether any given item falls within the definition. Kant holds that the definition of truth is merely nominal and, therefore, we cannot employ it to establish which judgements are true. According to Kant, the ancient skeptics criticized the logicians for holding that, by means of a merely nominal definition of truth, they can establish which judgements are true. They were trying to do something that is "impossible without qualification and for every man".

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Famous quotes containing the word kant:

    The ‘I think’ which Kant said must be able to accompany all my objects, is the ‘I breathe’ which actually does accompany them.
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    A writer must always try to have a philosophy and he should also have a psychology and a philology and many other things. Without a philosophy and a psychology and all these various other things he is not really worthy of being called a writer. I agree with Kant and Schopenhauer and Plato and Spinoza and that is quite enough to be called a philosophy. But then of course a philosophy is not the same thing as a style.
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